Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Davies’ picture book

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Maybe it was getting shot in the leg by a mugger. Maybe it was lowered expectations brought on by the sad sales figures of the last few Kinks albums. Maybe it was the same baby-boomer peer pressure that saw the Stones cough up an album this century that didn't suck. Whatever the impetus, the man with the most lopsided grin in rock has finally scripted an entire album that can rival Reprise-era Kinks for lyrical insight and gentle irony. In the past, a Davies song like "Days" could simultaneously convey both gratitude and fear of abandonment. On "Thanksgiving Day" here, Davies can ruminate about the death of the American dream while celebrating the idea that families come together one day a year to prop up some faded Norman Rockwell ideal.

The long hangover following his fictitious 1995 autobiography X-Ray is finally over, and Davies is back to writing about other people's lives again. And not as "Ray Davies of the Kinks" — a paranoid pop star studying people like bugs under a microscope — but as an average person himself. Whether he's cheering on his next-door neighbors from his side of the garden wall, sharing a pint with fellow travelers in a karaoke bar singing "Living La Vida Loca," getting dumped by a younger woman for a younger man, or complaining that even in heaven he's got to wait on a queue, Davies is in the thick of it all. He's drawing you in with details, wit and humanity. He only panders to the lowest common denominator on "Stand Up Comic" — a slap at people glued to TV. Honest, this is a stunning return from a guy who used to be called a genius when the word wasn't used to describe plastic surgeons, income tax specialists and Jessica Simpson's dad.

Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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